Gone are the days when football used to be just a source of entertainment in Malawi. Nowadays, it is also a reliable source of income for different stakeholders including athletes.
Watching the game is more exciting but there is a concern on payment disparities based on gender for national team players.
While globally, countries are endorsing and implementing equal payments for male and female players, Malawi is yet to adopt this initiative.
For example, under the Football Association of Malawi (FAM) guide, the amount of money in bonuses and allowances between male and female national teams are totally different per camping of a particular tournament or match.
The men’s perk is higher than that of women.
In October 2020, FAM executive committee revised upwards the players’ bonuses.
For each win in the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) and World Cup qualifiers, the bonus is at K500,000 ($488) and half the amount for a draw to each male player.
To women footballers in a similar assignment, the bonus is at K300, 000 ($293) and half the amount for a draw.
For a win in regional competitions such as COSAFA Cup, each male player gets K300, 000 ($293) for a win and half the amount for a draw while each female player receives K200, 000 ($196) for a win and half pay for a draw in a similar competition.
Margaret (not her real name) is a senior Malawi national women’s team player.
For fear of compromising her relationship with the national team and being labelled as a subversive, Margaret has opted for anonymity.
She does not hide how it feels receiving little than her male counterparts.
“It is a concern indeed. When we are on national team duties we have hopes that our lives will be improved through the allowances and bonuses. But we get peanuts,” she points out.
Margret wishes the authorities look into the matter and consider treating them equally as men interms of the bonuses and allowances.
“We hope one day the authorities will hear our cry and consider equaling our pay with that of men,” she explains.
FAM officials acknowledge the payment disparities and attribute the situation to a lack of adequate sponsorship in women’s football.
Media and Competitions Director for the local FA, Gomezgani Zakazaka says “the mens side gets good sponsorship from corporate institutions, as compared to women’s football.”
Zakazaka adds that FAM only complements the government’s responsibility to provide the teams with allowances and bonuses when on national duties.
“National teams are owned by the Malawi Government and we are only an urgent running the teams on their (government) behalf. The government’s allowance schedule for our athletes is little hence our intervention to make sure that the extra money motivates them,” he explains.
He further states that for women footballers’ allowances, the association uses its operational money to ensure the players get a financial boost.
The government through the Malawi National Council of Sports (MNCS) argues that they make equal payments to every athlete representing the country regardless of gender.
“Once an athlete or a team goes out of the country for an assignment outside the country, K50, 000 ($49) is given to each individual for a win and half the amount for a draw. This applies to both male and female athletes,” MNCS spokesperson Edgar Ntulumbwa explains.
While acknowledging the disparity in payment at national team level under the FA’s policy, General Secretary of the National Women’s Football Association, Lina Mtegha, says they are also working tirelessly to convince various sponsors for top-up revenue in bonuses and allowances.
A female sports journalist working with Mibawa Television, Tadala Manda believes there is a huge task to convince the general public to appreciate the efforts being put by women just like men.
“I think sponsors, mostly in the corporate world, have to appreciate the need for equal support and motivation for both male and women footballers. Just like the male footballers who receive gifts such as plots after an excellent performance, women players deserve the same,” Manda stresses.
Concurring with Manda is another seasoned sports reporter, Mwakhere Kaliyande of MIJ FM who says, “It is time for the country to explore ways of ensuring that sports associations promote equality interms of payments among athletes.”
The government adopted an equal pay policy between male and female athletes, in line with Goal 5 of the Malawi 2063 which is gender equality.
Sports federations therefore have the duty to introduce deliberate initiatives to address inequalities, as the pay gap which subjects female players to low pay demotivates them and retards the development of women football.